What to Do if You have Chipped a Tooth | Smile Stories

What to Do if You Have Chipped a Tooth

A chipped tooth can drive you to despair. A quick repair for a chipped front tooth is usually a white filling. The problem is, when you bite down on food, it constantly gets knocked, loosening over time. Then one day, it breaks again when you want to look your best.

Brilliant! You look like a pirate in front of everyone and need yet another trip to the dentist.

However, you’ll be glad to know there are long-term solutions to help you avoid situations like these. This will mean you’ll spend less money on repairs, less time at the dentist, and ultimately, less time worrying this will happen again.

This article will briefly examine the causes of chips and the long-term treatments recommended for your chipped tooth.

Causes of a Chipped Tooth

chipped tooth

There are many reasons you may get a chipped tooth, from using your teeth to open bottles, accidents, having a misaligned bite and crooked teeth. Here are a few of the most common causes of a chipped tooth:

  • Biting down on hard food
  • Chewing pens, pencils, or anything that shouldn’t be in your mouth
  • Trauma, e.g. playing a sport or falling over
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Misaligned bite or crooked teeth putting added pressure on points
  • Missing teeth putting other teeth under extra biting forces
  • Large amalgam (silver) fillings putting stress on the enamel.

Before we do anything, we need to assess why your tooth is chipping.

If we don’t address the causes, then it’s likely whatever chipped tooth repair we do will not last long. So, first things first. We must get down to the root causes of a chipped tooth.

Let’s say your child has thrown a toy car in your face (great shot), and it’s broken your front tooth. In this instance, we can go ahead and fix it. You hope it won’t happen again and were just unlucky. That, or your child is the next Phil Taylor.

But, if we find out you’ve been drinking fizzy drinks for years and this has eroded your enamel away, causing your tooth to chip, there is an underlying issue. If you don’t stop those fizzy drinks, the problem will move around your mouth. Piece after piece is going to break.

How to Repair a Chipped Tooth

Once we know what is causing the issue, we might need to provide other treatments, such as professional teeth cleaning, or replacement white fillings, before we can fix any damage. Once your teeth are ready, we must work out the best way to repair your chipped tooth. This means we need to measure how big the chip is and how deep it goes into the tooth structure.

diagram showing layers of a tooth

Why Does It Matter How a Chipped Tooth Is Fixed?

A tooth has several layers. The outside harder layer of your tooth is made of enamel, the next layer is dentine, and the furthest inside is the pulp.

How we determine the best long-term chipped tooth fix depends on if only the enamel is damaged or if it is deeper into the dentine or the pulp.

Here are the treatment options you have.

Chipped Tooth with No Pain

If there is no pain and the chip doesn’t bother you, there’s nothing wrong with just leaving it. For example, a tiny enamel chip on a pointy cusp of a back tooth is unlikely to get any worse or cause you any bother.

If it’s a small chip, but it is cutting your lip or tongue and causing you discomfort, it can be smoothed down. This is a simple procedure similar to filing down a nail, although it requires a lot more skill, and you should never attempt to do it yourself.

Typically, we’d only recommend you not to repair a chipped tooth if it’s no deeper than the enamel layer. When the chip extends into the dentine, it will cause sensitivity and should be fixed.

Chipped Tooth and Sensitivity

A little sensitivity with a chipped tooth is standard if the underlying tooth layer (dentine) is exposed. When you are suffering from sensitivity and the chip is into the dentine, we recommend composite bonding to repair the chipped tooth. But isn’t this the same as the filling the dentist keeps sticking on my tooth, I hear you say?

Well, not exactly. It all depends on how it’s done.

Composite bonding is adding white filling material (composite) over the broken part of the tooth to build up the shape and make the chip vanish entirely. When it’s done correctly, cosmetic bonding follows a strict protocol to ensure the filling doesn’t break again.

Firstly, for the composite to stick to a chipped tooth, the dentist needs to ensure the tooth is completely dry. A rubber dam (a blue sheet) is placed over the tooth, and sand particles are sprayed over the tooth to roughen the surface. This will improve the bond between the tooth and composite and make the repair last longer. If your dentist completes a chipped tooth repair in ten minutes or less, it’ll fail.

But composite bonding for chipped teeth won’t last forever. We’d generally say between five and seven years.  This is also highly dependent on how well you look after it. Composite bonding will stain if you consume a lot of dark-coloured drinks. Red wine and coffee are obvious culprits, or foods with strong colours, such as curries. You also need to be careful when you eat and avoid biting down on anything hard with teeth that have been repaired with composite bonding treatment. 

The beauty of composite bonding is that it can be used for small fillings or to build a composite veneer over the whole surface. It’s mixed to the shade of your tooth to ensure it blends in seamlessly and can easily be added to if it chips off. Best of all, this is a quick and easy treatment, often done without drilling or injections.

However, its success is incredibly reliant on the skill of the dentist. Unless composite bonding is done perfectly, it can disrupt your bite and cause even more problems further down the line; it will also look obvious.

Composite bonding can usually be completed in one appointment.

Chipped Tooth and Pain

When you experience pain after chipping a tooth, the chip probably goes down into the pulp. It is really important to get a repair for a chipped tooth that is hurting as the exposed pulp is at risk of infection and can die, which will lead to a dead tooth that will eventually fall out. If you feel anything more than sensitivity, any swelling, or if your tooth darkens over time, this could be a sign of bigger problems.

Dental Crowns for Chipped Teeth

dental crown

The most effective way to protect the dentine and save the tooth is with dental crowns or caps matching your natural teeth colour. Of course, you might want teeth whitening treatment first, as you cannot whiten crowns.

Crowns have some associated complications, which are typically a result of excessive shaving down of the tooth. Just search for “shark teeth” on TikTok — it’s really scary to see what some dentists do to people’s teeth. Although this tends to happen abroad when people think they are getting veneers but are actually given crowns. This can lead to the tooth dying in the future, requiring possible root canal treatment.

Dental crowns provide a protective covering over the entire tooth and are the most robust and long-term solution to chipped teeth. And a good dentist will shave down as little of the tooth as possible. This significantly reduces the chance of any complications at a later date.

You’ll need two appointments to complete a crown fitting.

Onlays for Chipped Teeth

Onlays are an alternative to crowns in some cases and fit over the top of the biting surface of a back tooth. It’s basically like a half-crown as it wraps down the sides, stopping before it reaches your gum line.

Again, it holds the weakened tooth together and stops pieces from breaking off the sides, just like a crown would. They can be a useful stage between a composite filling and a crown, and because there’s less tooth removal to place them, there’s less chance of problems in the future.

Porcelain Veneers for Chipped Teeth

veneers for chipped teeth

Porcelain veneers are cemented over the surface of the front of teeth, similar to a fake fingernail. This covers the chip and gives your tooth a perfect yet natural appearance. Before applying veneers, teeth need a little preparation and a small degree of reduction so the veneers don’t look bulky. Once this is done, a temporary veneer is applied while the permanent ones are made. The temporary veneers are removed on the second visit and replaced with permanent veneers.

But veneers only last if your bite is good. If your bite is misaligned and you’re putting too much pressure on specific teeth, it can flick off. Luckily, there are teeth straightening treatment options if you really want veneers, but you’re not suitable straight away.

Finally

Whatever you do.

Make sure you see your dentist if you have a chipped tooth.

Although you may not have any initial pain, it’s best to get it checked. Because it’s OK today, it may not be tomorrow. Even if you don’t want to repair a chipped tooth with  treatment, your dentist will be able to monitor the tooth between check-ups to ensure it won’t get worse.

Find out more about our chipped tooth treatment in Bournemouth at Smile Stories Cosmetic dentist with a free smile makeover video consultation.


Author

Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) qualified from university with honours. Working in the Bournemouth & Poole area, he’s passionate about orthodontics, minimally invasive dentistry and is a certified Invisalign provider.

Cancel